Gilbert school board votes to rip abortion page out of textbook

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

GILBERT, Ariz. -- The Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board voted this week to redact a section on abortion from a science book used in a high school honors curriculum.

The book, "Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections," contains a section about contraception, which discusses various methods, including the so-called abortion pill. Mifepristone, also known as RU486, can terminate a pregnancy in its early stages.

"You would expect a discussion of abortion maybe to show up in actual sex-ed materials. That's why I didn't like abortion in a biology book that all it discusses is natural processes.  There's nothing natural about abortion," said Daryl Colvin, acting Gilbert school board president.

The discussion in Gilbert was first brought up by a conservative Christian law organization called the Alliance Defending Freedom.  According to board member Jill Humpherys, Alliance Defending Freedom had complained to GPS Superintendent Christina Kishimoto over the summer.

At Tuesday night's school board meeting, the board voted 3 to 2 to nix the abortion section of the book, citing a recently signed state law that says school lessons on reproduction must give preference to childbirth and adoption over abortion.

"These textbooks were written before the state law so the easiest, simplest, cheapest way to bring them into compliance with state law is to excise that section.  It's only a page," Colvin said.

Opponents of the new policy believe removing the abortion section is unnecessary because the Arizona Department of Education and the Gilbert board’s own legal council said the biology book is in line with the law.

"When I looked at the textbooks, I thought they discussed biological principles well and in a very understandable way," said Humpherys, who was one of the two votes against the new policy.

Under Senate Bill 1009, which went into effect in April 2012, "no Arizona school district 'may allow any presentation during instructional time or furnish any materials to pupils as part of any instruction that does not give preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion.'"

Some of the policy's opponents believe that tearing disliked pages out of the textbook is tantamount to censorship. Humpherys did not go that far but does believe it's bad policy.

"If we hand a biology book to ninth-grade students with a page missing, I think there's going to be some questions about why that page is removed," Humpherys said.

Right now it's not clear how the district plans to remove or blot out the unwanted section of the textbook.  The board is leaving it up to the schools whether they tear the page out or mark over the passage.